After a convincing 5-2 victory over the Boston Blades launched 2014 on a positive note for the Montreal Stars, another memorable event would soon follow. January 5 would provide four Stars competitors with an opportunity to grace National Hockey League ice.
As one of the signature franchises in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League, the Stars were privileged to have Ann-Sophie Bettez, Cathy Chartrand, Fannie Desforges and Dangerous Dominique Thibault as special guests during the Montreal Canadiens fan practice, sponsored by Provigo.
It would prove to be a memorable Sunday morning for this fantastic foursome of women’s hockey heroes. Bettez is not only a former member of the Canadian national women’s hockey team; she is the all-time scoring leader in McGill Martlets history and the 2013 CWHL Rookie of the Year.
Another former national team member, Chartrand holds the rare honor of having served as team captain for the Martlets and the Montreal Stars. Heading into the 2013-14 season, Stars captain and team founder Lisa-Marie Breton relinquished her captaincy and bestowed it upon Chartrand.
Of note, Desforges and Thibault are familiar with each other on another frozen surface. Both have competed in the Red Bull Crashed Ice World Championships. Desforges claimed the world title in 2012, the first Canadian to obtain the honor. Thibault, a two-time Clarkson Cup champion, would follow her in 2013.
Joined on the ice by several Canadiens players, the opportunity to grace the ice in front of a packed house at Montreal’s Bell Centre was truly one to be treasured. As CWHL crowds tend to average close to 1,000, the more than 10,000 fans at Bell Centre provided the Stars players with the chance to display their skills (and possibly gain new fans) in a much larger venue.
Considering that the CWHL has held games at Toronto’s Air Canada Centre and Calgary’s Scotiabank Saddledome (in commemoration of a landmark sponsorship agreement), it would be exciting if the entire Stars roster could compete in a game at Montreal’s NHL venue. As the Montreal Carabins captured the Canadian Interuniversity Sport title in 2013, an exhibition match between the two prior to a Canadiens match on Bell Centre ice would provide fans with two of the best-kept secrets in hockey.
While sponsorship from the famed NHL club would be more preferred, (the Maple Leafs and Flames have committed $30,000 per annum to the CWHL until 2018), every small victory is one that deserves to be celebrated. The Sunday morning practice certainly represented one of those victories.
Of note, said victory was more than just the opportunity to share NHL ice with Canadiens players. It was the fact that these amazing pioneers in the female game provided the young women in attendance with the chance to realize that dreams do come true. For the lives they may have positively impacted on that Sunday morning, they have certainly gained their gratitude.